Human Resources Today

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Stop Working, Take Vacation and Set an Example

Image When I read this piece on busyness from Meredith Fineman in Harvard Business Review my immediate reaction was guilty as charged.  She's describing me and one of my worst faults. I'm always busy, always working, and always telling people about it. While I like to think of myself as self-aware (I know many of my greatest strengths and deepest weaknesses) sometimes you need a wake-up call.  That can come in the form of reading, listening, asking ("am I missing something") or the ever-valuable-when-done-right upward feedback.

So where does it come from? Sure, I can harbor much of the blame. So can society, the American business landscape, even #startuplife. Entrepreneurs especially feel the need to be busy all of the time and when things slow, feel a sense of laziness.I won't argue with the value of taking a break. But I will remind you leaders out there: it's also your fault. We're terrible at modeling good behavior, especially when it comes to taking a break.  We push for our team to take vacation, but do we check to see who actually does? It's cool for startups to offer unlimited vacation days, but are any actually required?  We might not expect our teams to answer emails nights and weekends, but we send them anyway.

I last wrote about the importance of role models in my Forbes piece about women in the workplace where I lamented my personal lack of role models in my own career. Part of the problem for me was the workload, the badge of honor that seemed to come with long hours and being busy all the time. I didn't want it then and I don't want it now.

So why do I still do it?

Part of it is the entrepreneurial push and part is the role my business plays in my life. It's an important part of me. But saying I'm busy all the time, or feeling the pressure to always be working doesn't make for better work. So it's time to stop.

I took all of Labor Day weekend off (enjoy my view above).  Every single, solitary second. I didn't plan on it, but the outcome was more than I could have imagined. A clearer head. A fresher perspective. A calmer mind. A motivated Tuesday. And I plan to do it again later this year. Several times. I'll take a cue from my own missteps. This isn't just about working when I want or working all the time. It's the portion of my brain that's occupied with work. It's working smarter and better.

This last quarter of the year has to be productive for all of us, but there's also a ton of holiday and vacation time to be had. I wanted a life as an entrepreneur. In fact, I left the corporate world for it. Now it's time to make sure I don't revert to old habits, and, feel the need to tell everyone all the time.

As for you? Are you guilty even in the slightest? Don't tell me you're too busy to make a change. Be a role model. Model the time off for your team and see real results when they follow in your more relaxed and productive footsteps.



exaqueo is a human resources consultancy that helps startups and high-growth companies build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to grow in the right way.



Thursday Lunch Break: Mr. Rogers

Here at exaqueo, Thursdays often feel like the days we get the most s&#t done. They're packed call after another with barely any breathing time in between. And while I actually love feeling amazingly productive, that pace, all day long, isn't healthy.  So when I do have five minutes to take a lunch break, I need something totally brainless.  Enter #ThursdayLunchBreak. It's our way of sharing the lighthearted break we all need that usually ends up in some sort of #startuplife lesson anyway. Today's #ThursdayLunchBreak? Mr. Rogers. Remixed. I am not kidding.

Just mentioning his name makes me smile and calms things down.  And while this totally cracked me up, there's also an awesome lesson at the end on reflection. As entrepreneurs we're all about action. There's a reason Amy Jo Martin introduced the #ReadySetPause--I love it. And Mr. Rogers is an awesome, old school reminder.



Stop Being Selfish: Doing Good Business Deeds

It's been a big year for me. Got engaged. Revamped my business plan. Pivoted the business. Got married. Took three weeks off for the first time in 10 years. It's this kind of year where you realize who people really are. Really.  I tried to ask for  help.  Sometimes it worked. More often, it didn't. Someone said to me recently: "you're really good at paying it forward and you're not so good at promoting yourself." I'll admit, I took that as a big compliment. I get more value from helping people than almost anything. I champion self-promotion to others in every way possible. I tell coaching clients to make big asks. I tell organizational clients to use multiple channels to promote their brands. But I don't do it so well myself.

In a year like I have had--both professionally and personally--I've been constantly surprised by people. And not always in a good way.  I don't help people because I want something in return. And I don't ask for help often. But this year I did. Multiple times. And the results, especially in business, were surprising.

Here's what I learned--it's so much easier to ignore than help. It's easy to ignore a voicemail, an email, a Facebook friend, a retweet request. If you turn a blind eye, you don't feel as badly. And that happens in business more often than we realize. There's a "me" mentality in business these days. People are selfish. They're prioritizing things in business based on a WIFM (what's in it for me) mentality.

There are tons of messages this season about helping others socially and economically. But what about in business?  How can we use the season to remember business?  Here are a few ideas:

1) Pay attention to your colleagues

I left my last job on December 31st last year. There were plenty of people in the office that day and yet I ate lunch alone. It would have been really awesome for  someone to notice I was feeling a bit down, nervous about the change to come.  Just someone noticing would have done wonders.

2) Promote a new business

Small business is the backbone of our economy. Go promote one!  It's incredibly hard to be an entrepreneur and those who are living the #startuplife will be so grateful for the small token of support.  Two start-ups I'm really proud of this holiday season? My friends Jamey Jeff and Scott Rothrock over at RemarkableHire (offering holiday discounts!), and the fabulous Lauren Thorp over at UmbaBox (can we say holiday shopping done?). Please check them both out.

3) Help a job-seeking friend

It's a tough time of year to be out of work. The good news? January and February are the biggest hiring months of the year. If you have job-seeking friends, send them a simple note: "I know you're still looking for work so I thought I'd can I help?"

4) Talk about and really thank the people who've helped you

Last year I blogged about the people who helped me in 2011. The post itself didn't get a ton of views, but it was really cathartic for me to think about the year, and who was so influential for me personally, and then thank them in a public way.  It's also incredibly interesting to see how those relationships change and evolve. You can learn a great deal about people that way.

5) Make an introduction

Introduce two people out of the blue who could really benefit from knowing each other.  There's a real value from getting a surprise introduction and that sort of altruism can lead to really valuable business relationships.

So stop being business selfish. Do something for someone in the spirit of the holiday season.

As for me, I'm far from perfect, in business and in life. I can learn too, help more and be a better business neighbor. So in that vein, what can I do for you? Let me know.  I also bet I can predict who will retweet and share this blog post.